Water project delay after protesters burn R3.5m excavator in Khayelitsha

30 March 2021 - 15:14
By Aron Hyman
The City of Cape Town blamed violent protesters for destroying an excavator at a construction site in Khayelitsha.
Image: City of Cape Town The City of Cape Town blamed violent protesters for destroying an excavator at a construction site in Khayelitsha.

The City of Cape Town says the destruction of a R3.5m excavator is the latest incident causing delays in the delivery of its R162m Baden Powell Drive bulk water supply project in Khayelitsha.

The project, which the city said will strengthen supply to thousands of Khayelitsha residents, is a decade in the making, but the city said attacks on the building site, land occupations, Covid-19 and protests have delayed the expected completion date from November 2021 to March 2022.

This week the city condemned the malicious damage to property, but assured residents they were committed to “staying on track with the work to enhance service delivery”.

“A major bulk infrastructure project designed to boost water supply in Khayelitsha was again targeted amid violent protest action in the area last week. An excavator belonging to a city contractor, valued at approximately R3.5m, was set alight.”

The city said the contractor was performing specialist micro-tunnelling services across the N2 and Baden Powell Drive to connect new bulk water infrastructure to the existing Khayelitsha supply,

Previous attacks on excavators assigned to this project late last year resulted in approximately R6.5m in damage, said the city.

Cape Town mayor Dan Plato also lashed out against the vandals, claiming the attacks were committed by individuals “falsely claiming to represent the interests of vulnerable communities”.

“The city’s water and sanitation department and its contractors will nonetheless continue doing everything possible to ensure progress is sustained, and residents of Enkanini, Makaza, Kuyasa, Harare and surrounding areas are able to enjoy the enhanced services as soon as possible,” said Plato.

The new infrastructure is meant to strengthen supply to the eastern sections of Khayelitsha.

The city said the R162m project, which involves installing more than 6km of new bulk water supply pipeline, is at an advanced stage of implementation following more than a decade of preparation.

“The eastern sections of Khayelitsha are currently supplied via the bulk main on the northwestern side. Distance from the bulk supply main, combined with rapid and sustained growth in the area and associated demand on supply, mean households in the eastern region experience lower water pressure than those in the northern and western regions,” said the city.

Mayoral committee member for water and waste services Xanthea Limberg said once completed, the new pipeline will transfer an estimated 1,410 litres of water per second into the existing water reticulation system in Khayelitsha.

The fact that the project is on track – with more than 5.9km (or 95% of the total) water pipeline installed and approximately R84m of the budget spent – reflects true professional dedication to service delivery.
Cape Town MMC for water and waste services Xanthea Limberg

“I commend the water and sanitation staff, as well as our contractors, who have remained committed to seeing this project reach fruition, despite challenges,” she said.

“Protest action and intimidation of teams on the ground have at times made for a rocky terrain in which to proceed, so the fact that the project is on track – with more than 5.9km (or 95% of the total) water pipeline installed and approximately R84m of the budget spent – reflects true professional dedication to service delivery.

“Large-scale infrastructure investment is key to supporting growth and ensuring water supply is sustained in line with increasing demand. The city remains committed to delivering services to residents and will continue to do everything within its power to see this project through to completion as soon as possible.”

Plato said during 2020 engineers had to redesign the pipeline route after residents settled on land along the planned route.

“In addition, soon after the national lockdown commenced, new informal structures were erected. The city attempted to protect the land and ensure efforts to enhance service delivery were not derailed, but did not succeed as the high court ruled in favour of the land invaders. The city was not prepared to give up on the water supply project, and it was put back on track, but set back by a few months,” he said.

The city said in addition to the major bulk pipeline installation, the project involves construction of a pressure reducing station, a connection to the existing 2.4m-diameter Faure bulk main, and three connections to the existing water reticulation in Khayelitsha.

The project’s progress currently stands at 65% to 70% and according to the city, 23 local job opportunities were created.

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